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Thought for the Day: Answer to "Why So Many Mitzvos?" -- Depends On Who Is Asking

They say that a king was once traveling in a foreign and barbaric land.  The king came under attack and was saved by one of the locals; a savage brute of a man, but with high aspirations.  The king wanted to reward the native for saving his life, and decided to let him have an entire night in the royal treasury to load up and take as much as he could carry of his choice from the treasury.  The native, though, being from such a remote region of the king's realm was hardly able to appreciate what he was being given.  The king's men were finally able to get the savage to understand that he was to accompany them back to the palace.  The savage was left alone in the treasury with all the gems and coins; and a huge pile of bags.  The poor savage, though, only saw rocks and slivers of metal; looking to him like one big garbage dump.  Left alone, he bemoaned his fate, "All saving the kings life did for me was to show that I have a strong back!  Here they put me to work cleaning up this huge mess!"  He worked halfheartedly until dawn.  The kings men were shocked to see that he had only used one bag, and that was only half full.  They sent him home carrying his reward, but the whole way he only complained more about how he had to even carry the garbage out and congratulated himself on at least not making the work too hard on himself.

The nimshal, of course, is our lot in this world -- a world filled with Torah and mitzvos; there is nothing more precious in all creation, and we have only to pick up as much as we want.

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztz"l, was once asked (Halichos Shlomo, Mo'adim Yom Kippur, Perek 5, Orchos Halacha 70) by a simple person what is p'shat in the pasuk that HaShem loved us so much that he increased Torah and mitzvos?  Learning Torah is hard; doing mizvos is  a lot of work!  How is that a z'chus for us?  The Rav answered that our lives are filled with many mundane activities that simply need to be done.  For example, we need to put on our shoes before going out.  HaShem, b'chasdo, gave us halachos about putting on the right shoe first, tying the left shoe first, and so on.  We have to do those activities anyway, but HaShem turned them from mundane activities into beautiful opportunities for avodas HaShem.  Not more work, but a small change in attitude and our mundane moments are transformed into gems of eternal reward.  The many was very happy and left, excited with this new understanding.

The rav turned to his talmidim and said, "The true reward of a mitzvah, of course, is the opportunity itself to do the mitzvah; the harder the better!  In fact (he continued), Rashi (Rosh HaShana 28b, d.h. lav l'hanos) that the pshat in "mitzvos lav l'hanos nitna" is that the pleasure of doing a mitzvah is tafel to the real (ethernal) benefit of the mitzvah.

Why didn't the rav tell that to the original questioner?  Why didn't he tell him the mashal?  Why didn't he tell his talmidim the mashal?  The M'silas Y'sharim, in explaining each level, always gives three different approaches: one for the simple person, one for the one on his way, one for the "shleimei ha'da'as"/perfected outlook.  The goal is to move forward and upward.  What motivates a simple person, does not motivate a great person; and vice versa.  However, all the courses are true.  A rav needs to be sensitive to his where his talmidim is holding.  He always tells the truth, but chooses the presentation for the audience.

The mishna in Avos says, "aseh l'cha rav", which can be translated as, "make yourself into a rav" -- you have to be a rav to yourself; know where you are holding and how to go forward.


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